January 31, 2012
By Martyna Starosta
My participation in various OWS working groups taught me that safer spaces don’t simply exist. It actually takes a lot of critical analysis, effort, and patience to create those.
My comrades and I had a lot of heated discussions about the surprisingly persistent figure of the “male anarchist hero” and the often outraging paradox of patriarchal behavior in anti-oppression working groups.
I recently interviewed the Brooklyn-based collective Support New York about this question. In this conversation, the volunteers Kat and Milo analyzed harmful patterns of behavior in radical communities and talked about their methods to transform these patterns.
Support New York is dedicated to heal the effects of sexual assault and abuse within the radical community.The collective focuses on meeting the needs of the survivor, and holding accountable those who have perpetrated harm. The volunteers also strive for a larger dialog within the community about consent, mutual aid, and challenging the society’s narrow definition of abuse.
Even though Support New York operates within a narrow local radius, it can serve as an inspiring case study of community empowerment and transformative justice.
January 16, 2012
By Prita Lal
On Sunday, November 20, 2011, a group of veteran civil rights activists from the “Council of Elders” Organizing Committee hosted Intergenerational Days at Occupy Wall Street and in other Occupy cities around the country. In NYC, the day included an interfaith worship service at Liberty Square followed by a panel discussion at Judson Memorial Church. The event was organized and hosted by the People of Color Caucus and the Anti-racism Allies working groups.
The Council of Elders is an independent group of leaders from the farm worker, sanctuary, civil and human rights movements that shook the nation’s conscience with public protests during the 20th century. This intergenerational dialogue brought together hundreds of activists, organizers, educators, and community members to discuss questions, challenges, and lessons that can be gained from the civil rights era to the current Occupy movements happening worldwide. As an excerpt from the statement of solidarity by the Council of Elders states:
“We see Occupy Wall Street as a continuation, a deepening and expansion of the determination of the diverse peoples of our nation to transform our country into a more democratic, equitable, just, and compassionate society.”
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October 19, 2011
By Samuel Stein
Occupy Wall Street is growing. What started on September 17th as an encampment of hundreds in one small park has turned global. On October 15th, demonstrations were held in 1,500 cities in 82 countries. In New York City, our numbers are growing, and momentum is building to expand to more sites around the city. As a formally leaderless movement without explicit demands, we are defined primarily by the spaces we create. What do our choices of venues say about our politics, our critique and our vision? The choice of our next sites will communicate more to the world than any simple list of demands ever could.
We began our movement in Liberty Plaza, a “Privately Owned Public Space.” The park was created through a mechanism added to the New York City zoning code in 1961. The 1961 revisions were full of new ways to shape development in the city, prefaced on the idea that zoning could be used to shape the city’s social as well as spatial patterns. One of these planning innovations, the “density bonus,” allows developers to build higher than would otherwise be permitted if they create an open space for public use. The spaces could be inside a building’s lobby, or outside on land owned by the developer. While some of these plazas supported active street life, many were poorly designed and underutilized, and became empty caverns among skyscrapers. Left urbanists have largely written off the program as a giveaway to developers and a retrenchment of the state as planner and provider of open spaces.
Occupy Wall Street’s reclamation of Liberty Plaza turns this logic on its head. What was once seen as a boon to real estate capital is now a thorn in its side. Our presence signals to the city and to real estate capital that social movements will use any and all spaces available to the public, regardless of its formal ownership. Claiming a privately owned public space as our initial home base created a posture for the movement that was critical of both capital and the state, and especially hostile to its collusion.
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October 6, 2011
By Sonny Singh
Yesterday was a great day in New York City. Tens of thousands joined the #OccupyWallStreet movement in downtown Manhattan, demanding an economic system that ensures justice for working people, students, the unemployed – the 99%.
It’s been a little over a week since I began going down to Liberty Square to support and participate and exactly a week since our desi bloc block of the movement’s Declaration over our concerns about it obfuscating the history and present realities of systemic racism and other forms of oppression. I have to say that yesterday, as I marched while banging the hell out of my dhol alongside so many passionate and angry and hopeful and beautiful people from so many different walks of life, the color and vibe of this movement may very well be shifting in a promising direction.
With a huge presence of labor unions and community organizations taking to the streets yesterday, the culture on the ground felt and looked really different: it looked like New York City. I saw posters in Punjabi, Farsi, Mandarin, and Spanish (and probably missed many other languages as I was pretty focused on my dhol), an indigenous people’s contingent, tons of POCs from grassroots organizations like FIERCE!, NYCPP, CAAAV, Make the Road New York and the Arab American Association of NY.
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